THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: JOHN PODHORETZ, THE NEW YORK POST; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, THE HUFFINGTON POST TAPED: FRIDAY, JULY 20, 2007 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JULY 21-22, 2007
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: GOP Block and Tackle.
SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID (D-NV): (From videotape.) Regrettably, Republicans chose to block this amendment. They chose to block a bipartisan amendment. They chose to continue protecting their president instead of our troops, no matter the cost to our country.
SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): (From videotape.) We were elected to legislate, not to strut across a stage. This isn't Hollywood. This is real life here in the Senate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republicans blocked it -- a law that would have required the president to start bringing troops home within 120 days and complete the pullout by April 30, 2008. Democrats could not find the 60 votes needed. The final tally: 52-47. Four Republicans voted with the Democrats: Susan Collins, Chuck Hagel, Gordon Smith and Olympia Snowe.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid kept debate going into the predawn hours of Wednesday. Cots were rolled out, pizza brought in. Reid had hoped to force wavering Republicans like senior senators Pete Domenici, George Voinovich, Richard Lugar and John Warner to make good on their recent public criticism of Bush's policy in Iraq with a yes vote. Alas, they all folded.
Question: Is the Senate stalemate politically more advantageous for the Republicans or more politically advantageous for the Democrats? John Podhoretz.
MR. PODHORETZ: I think it's politically advantageous for both; politically advantageous for Republicans because they are showing that they can hold together, that they still have the fire and the brio to do what is necessary to advance the cause that they are supporting.
It is politically advantageous for Democrats because Democratic politicians need to look like they are taking steps to end the war. I don't think they actually want to end the war right now, but they need to look for their base and for people around the country that like they are trying.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you're telling me that this is advantageous for the Republicans because it would help them with 30 percent of the electorate that supports George Bush.
MR. PODHORETZ: No, because the future of the Republican Party resides in the possibility of there being a serious turnaround in our fortunes in Iraq. Without that, there is nothing. We have 150,000 troops there. They are trying to do something. The rug is trying -- Democrats are trying to pull the rug out from under them. It would not help Republicans to bolt right now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Look, the Democratic-controlled Congress is at 14 percent in the latest John Zogby poll, and that's because they haven't delivered on being able to end the war. They look ineffectual. So they had to at least look like they're trying. They can't throw up their hands and say it's impossible.
So I think politically this was the smart thing to do. And this is a political campaign. This is going to take time to force the president. And what's happening is September has been talked about as the crunch point. Now we've had September and July, and now the administration is trying to move September to November. They're playing for time, and the Republicans are going to have to decide between their own political survival and sticking with the president. And that's going to happen late in the fall. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It would seem that this would be more advantageous to the Democrats, because every time they try to stop the war or curb the war, the Republicans say no.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, look, I would make a distinction between whether it's helpful to the Republicans or whether it's helpful to George Bush. I think this vote was helpful for George Bush. It put off an ugly fight for another month-and-a-half or two months.
For the Republicans, on the other hand, forgetting policy but just looking at the politics, this is not good news for them. Seventy percent of the country is against the war and the Republicans are seen to be on the wrong side of that issue. I think the crunch will come for a lot more of the Republicans in September. But any time the Iraq issue is being discussed, it helps the Democrats as a party and it hurts the Republicans. But the fact that Bush was able to sustain his position helped him personally.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Podhoretz says that has bought time -- Tony says this has bought time for Bush. Do you agree with that?
MS. HUFFINGTON: It has bought time for Bush, and it will all depend on what happens in September. But I completely agree with Tony that it's really bad news for Republicans running in '08. I mean, look at what happened to John McCain, who became the public face of the surge, and his campaign cratered. If we look at the polls, you can see --
MR. PODHORETZ: Oh, Arianna --
MS. HUFFINGTON: -- that was much more than immigration; honestly, much more than immigration.
MR. PODHORETZ: Oh, no, it wasn't.
MS. HUFFINGTON: That was the turning point in McCain's fate.
MR. PODHORETZ: So that's why every Republican who is running for president is unabashedly pro-war.
MS. HUFFINGTON: But not at all the way John McCain was. John McCain has supported the surge from the beginning. He became the public face of it.
MR. PODHORETZ: So does Romney. So does Giuliani.
MS. HUFFINGTON: But not in the same way.
MR. PODHORETZ: So does Fred Thompson.
MS. HUFFINGTON: Not with the passion that John McCain has -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think we've got a clear statement here of who won this exchange.
MR. PODHORETZ: Well, I'll tell you somebody who lost the exchange.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the Republicans won it?
MR. PODHORETZ: No. Well, I think neither one won. They both did what they had to do.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, it was a draw.
MS. CLIFT: The Democrats win because -- if you want to talk politically, because the Republicans gained further ownership of this war --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the Republicans look bad.
MS. CLIFT: -- and the Democrats --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They look bad because they want to keep the war going and they want to frustrate the Democratic action to stop it.
MR. PODHORETZ: No, absolutely not.
MS. CLIFT: The Democrats win politically. I don't think you can argue the Republicans win except that they bought a little more time until they're going to have to make the decision whether they're going to cut and run from the president, which they will do.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the human face of war.
All elements of the war are maddening; first, the loss of life -- over 3,600 dead U.S. soldiers in Iraq to date. Then the seriously wounded, physically, mentally or both -- 66,000-plus. Then the money cost, about $750 billion. Then there is the relatively untold story of exhaustion and rancor in the U.S. military over what our soldiers are asked to do. This remarkable ABC exclusive footage records it.
U.S. SOLDIER: (From videotape.) You've got grenades going off. You've got an IED blowing up your vehicle. And then you're expected to go back in those four to five hours and relax, to come back out and do another six hours. You just don't have time to do it. Your body never gets to come down. You're always on that heightened sense of alertness. U.S. SOLDIER: (From videotape.) Because we have people up there in Congress with the brain of a 2-year-old who don't know what they're doing. They don't experience it. I challenge the president or whoever has us here for 15 months to ride alongside me. I'll do another 15 months if he comes out here and rides along with me every day for 15 months. I'll do 15 more months. They don't even have to pay me extra.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Are these soldiers representative of the morale of our military in Iraq? Arianna Huffington.
MS. HUFFINGTON: From what we hear from other sources, well, yes, they are. And it's a very powerful, very compelling example of what the media could be doing to stop sanitizing this war because we have not really grappled with the reality of what's happening to the soldiers' lives and what's happening to the Iraqis' lives.
MR. PODHORETZ: I'm sorry --
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, there are 160,000 troops there, and you can find a group of guys and women to take any possible view. We just met this week with some young vets back who are very gung-ho, who are going to be returning shortly. My son, who's in the Army ROTC, just came back from a month-and-a-half, a drill. He was meeting with young guys just back from Iraq --
MS. HUFFINGTON: Oh, come on, Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- who are very positive. What I'm saying is --
MR. PODHORETZ: "Oh, come on, Tony."
MR. BLANKLEY: -- you can find some; I can find some. But to say that this represents the overall attitude, given the recruitment rate that's going on amongst those troops --
MS. HUFFINGTON: The recruitment rate of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you talked to front-line rank-and-file troops?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they don't say this?
MR. BLANKLEY: We had two young men --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They don't seem dispirited? They don't realize that this mission is a hopeless mission? MR. BLANKLEY: No, they don't. You can find some --
MS. CLIFT: Whether they support the mission or not, they are being abused when they spend an average of 15 months there and only get 12 months at home.
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, we all understand the --
MS. CLIFT: And that affects their ability to perform. And it's more about the abuse of a volunteer army. It's about the abuse of America's national security.
MR. BLANKLEY: That wasn't the topic. The topic was attitude. The topic was attitude --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. Okay, Lion of Fallujah.
Marine Major Douglas A. Zembiec died on the battlefield in Iraq in May while serving in his fourth tour. The 34-year-old major was known to his soldiers as the Lion of Fallujah. He had exceptional qualities of leadership, resourcefulness and camaraderie, and he was fearless. His men loved him.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates keeps Major Zembiec's photograph on his conference room wall. On Wednesday, Secretary Gates, at a Marine banquet, saluted Major Zembiec.
DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: (From videotape.) In May, the Lion of Fallujah was laid to rest at Arlington, and he was memorialized at his alma mater in Annapolis. A crowd of more than 1,000 included many enlisted Marines from his beloved Echo Company. An officer there told a reporter, "Your men have to follow your orders. They don't have to go to your funeral."
Every evening, I write notes to the families of young Americans like Doug Zembiec. For you and for me, they are not names on a press release or numbers updated on a website. They are our country's sons and daughters.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This week, Pamela Zembiec thanked Secretary Gates and described her husband.
PAMELA ZEMBIEC (wife of Major Douglas Zembiec): (From videotape.) Doug was the most wonderful man I've ever met in my life. He would walk into a room and, you know, the whole room would light up.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is it your intuition that George Bush is happy with Secretary Gates' show of emotion, or is he perturbed by it? Eleanor Clift. MS. CLIFT: I don't know how President Bush feels about this. I think he's sufficiently removed that he probably doesn't pay much attention. But I think Secretary Gates --
MR. PODHORETZ: Oh, that's an unfair statement.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. Excuse me.
MR. PODHORETZ: The president himself cries when he mentions --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. I'm speaking. I'm speaking. I'm speaking.
MR. PODHORETZ: -- and talks about -- yes, I know, and you're saying something defamatory and unfair.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her talk, John.
MS. CLIFT: I believe that he genuinely feels horrible about what's happening and is looking for a way out and that he is a bulwark against the hardliners in the White House, particularly Vice President Cheney. This was a rare show of emotion in a war that has otherwise been sterilized. We don't see the coffins. The president doesn't attend funerals. We're told that he is emotional in private.
We don't see that. They have tried to forcibly distance the American people from this war.
MR. BLANKLEY: You know, I think it's --
MR. PODHORETZ: I think that that is an incredibly unfair thing to say.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- just beastly of you to suggest the president doesn't have any emotions about the men and women who are killed --
MS. CLIFT: I didn't say that.
MS. HUFFINGTON: That's not what she said.
MR. BLANKLEY: Of course she said that.
MS. HUFFINGTON: Eleanor said that he does not show emotion.
MR. PODHORETZ: He does show emotions.
MS. HUFFINGTON: Come on.
MR. PODHORETZ: Look at the State of the Union address.
MS. HUFFINGTON: When did he last show emotion?
MR. PODHORETZ: Every time he gives a speech about the Iraq war, he talks about one or another of the fallen.
MS. HUFFINGTON: Oh, come on, John.
MR. PODHORETZ: And during those speeches, whether or not you like it or not, he expresses emotion. He talks to the families of the fallen --
MS. HUFFINGTON: John, hold on a second. He has never shown emotion, he has never attended a private funeral, and he has never done anything --
MR. PODHORETZ: Wait. What do you mean, he's never shown emotion? I don't have the clips with me, but -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there an embedded message in Gates' tears?
MS. HUFFINGTON: Absolutely. First of all, I don't think in any way that this was calculated. This was clearly something he could not stop himself from expressing. It is very, very powerful because it corresponds with what we're hearing about his efforts to actually change course in Iraq. And he showed why. And you know what? It's not about people dying.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what's the message? The message from Gates is what?
MR. PODHORETZ: (Inaudible) -- the surge.
MS. HUFFINGTON: The message from Gates is not just that young people die at war. I mean, we know that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he think this idyllic vision of George Bush --
MS. HUFFINGTON: Exactly. That's the message.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- cannot be achieved? Is that what he thinks?
MS. HUFFINGTON: That's the message.
MR. PODHORETZ: That wasn't the message of the speech at all.
MS. HUFFINGTON: Hold on one second.
MR. BLANKLEY: This is a fantasy conversation.
MS. HUFFINGTON: The message -- stop it.
MR. BLANKLEY: This is a fantasy conversation you're having.
MS. HUFFINGTON: You know what? You're both --
MR. BLANKLEY: You're making up --
MS. HUFFINGTON: The message is not about --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think there was an embedded message in those tears?
MR. BLANKLEY: No embedded message. It was obvious. The man had a genuine, sincere emotion, as anybody would. It doesn't mean anything about policy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Gates thinks that those people are dying in vain? MR. BLANKLEY: No.
MR. PODHORETZ: No. I don't think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think so?
MR. BLANKLEY: There's no reason to --
MS. CLIFT: I think --
MR. PODHORETZ: I don't know, because I don't --
MS. CLIFT: -- I think he thinks this war needs to be brought to an end. The president --
MR. BLANKLEY: You're making this up.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me.
MR. BLANKLEY: You're making this up.
MS. CLIFT: The president --
MS. HUFFINGTON: We're not making it up.
MS. CLIFT: The president met with --
MR. BLANKLEY: Gates hasn't said that.
MS. CLIFT: The president met with conservative journalists last week. I wonder if you were there. But the whole message that came out of that was --
MR. BLANKLEY: No, I was taping here. I was invited, actually.
MS. CLIFT: -- how cheerful he is and how apparently unconcerned he is by all the bad news. So that's the message we get from the White House.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Which group of bitterly divided sectarians will compromise first, the Republicans and the Democrats in America or the Sunnis, Shi'as and Kurds in Iraq?
MS. HUFFINGTON: Well, actually --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: John Podhoretz. We're going around.
MR. PODHORETZ: I've got to go with the Iraqis. I've got to go with the Iraqis. I think it's more likely that there will be political breakthroughs in Iraq in the next eight months than that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What gives you the signal about that? MR. PODHORETZ: Well, I don't see any signal that Republicans and Democrats in the city are in any mood to compromise on anything.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're taking the month of August off; the parliamentarians are.
MR. PODHORETZ: Yeah, I know. So is Congress.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Right, and that is obscene.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which sectarians are going to --
MS. CLIFT: In 130-degree heat, American soldiers have to stay and fight.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will we get --
MS. CLIFT: The Republicans on Capitol Hill are looking for a way out, and they'll find it before the end of the year.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And before the --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- sectarians in Iraq.
MS. CLIFT: If the sectarians in Iraq made political compromise, then we would have a whole different situation there. That's nowhere in sight.
MR. BLANKLEY: There's actually probably more intermarriage between Sunnis and Shi'as than there are between Republicans and Democrats.
MS. HUFFINGTON: You know what? This is really --
MR. PODHORETZ: I'm married to a Democrat.
MS. HUFFINGTON: The answer to this question is at the heart of what you think should be done in Iraq, because if you recognize that these are age-old hatreds that are going to be there for a long time, then you realize that absolutely everybody can be reconciled in America before they're reconciled in Iraq. And that's why we need to stop --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you're saying America will be reconciled first.
MS. HUFFINGTON: Absolutely. That's why we need to stop refereeing a civil war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Arianna, you've hit the nail right on the head.
Another exit question: Do you think that Secretary Gates should be commended or should be condemned for choking up? MR. PODHORETZ: I think it was a wonderful, powerful moment and he should be --
MS. CLIFT: I don't condemn anyone for honest emotion.
MR. PODHORETZ: -- saluted for it.
MS. CLIFT: I think people needed to see that. And I also think he is working to try to bring an honorable end to this war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If he was off-message with the tears --
MR. BLANKLEY: No, look, he shouldn't be condemned or anything else. It's a natural human emotion. It doesn't have anything to do with policy. And people --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think Rove is saying that he was off- message?
MR. BLANKLEY: No.
MS. HUFFINGTON: He was off-message. He should be absolutely congratulated for allowing himself to express emotion. And there was an embedded message, which is that these men are dying in vain.
MR. PODHORETZ: Well, that's your message.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gates should be commended.
Issue Two: An Inconvenient Truth.
SEN. DAVID VITTER (R-LA): (From videotape.) No matter how long ago it was, I know this has hurt the relationship of trust I've enjoyed with so many of you and that I have a lot of work to do to rebuild that. I will work every day to rebuild that trust.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republican Senator David Vitter from Louisiana, linked to Deborah Palfrey, the so-called D.C. Madam, will not be up for re-election for three years, in 2010. But Vitter has a problem, despite his public apology. Ms. Palfrey is accused of running a prostitution business. She says it wasn't. It was an elite escort service that was totally legal.
To make her point, Ms. Palfrey could follow through on a strategy to force Vitter to testify as to what exactly was the kind of service her business provided him with. The presumption is that this would make her point that the service was escort only.
Vitter is not expected to step down over the next four months, because if he did, Louisiana's Democratic governor, Kathleen Blanco, could appoint a Democrat to replace him. This would give Senate Democrats a 50-48 edge over Republicans, as opposed to the current 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans and two Independents. Question: Is Vitter's Senate seat secure? Eleanor. And you want to also amend the introduction.
MS. CLIFT: There are actually 51 Democrats, although Joe Lieberman generally votes with the Republicans --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you do with Lieberman?
MS. CLIFT: -- and Tim Johnson is ill and hasn't been voting.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he an Independent? Where do you put him?
MS. CLIFT: He calls himself a Democratic Independent, so he's in kind of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, he's inverted the word; not an independent.
MS. CLIFT: Right, exactly. But in terms of Senator --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we supposed to keep track of that as journalists? Are we supposed to?
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) Yes, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, please continue.
MS. CLIFT: Senator Vitter is not up until 2010, but I suspect the voters will remember this. And the question is whether the drip, drip of bad news that is hitting him right now becomes a torrent, because --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What drip, drip of bad news? What drip, drip?
MS. CLIFT: That there may be more sins that he committed in Louisiana.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There won't be any more. The RNC is going to see to that. The RNC will take a little precious hush money for that.
MR. BLANKLEY: John, let me make two points on this. One, he's lucky he comes from Louisiana, which is a more forgiving state for these things. On the other hand, I did find --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, what does that mean?
MR. BLANKLEY: They have a whole history of having --
MR. PODHORETZ: Haven't you heard of Louisiana -- (inaudible) -- living with a stripper? He said the greatest thing ever in American politics --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, wait a minute. You don't know that to be a fact. MR. PODHORETZ: What, that he lived with Blaze Starr?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, the governor.
MR. PODHORETZ: The governor.
MR. BLANKLEY: But the --
MR. PODHORETZ: Earl Long lived with a stripper --
MR. BLANKLEY: But the most --
MS. CLIFT: Bragging he was morally superior.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- unusual statement he made was that he had received forgiveness from God and his wife. Now, I can understand you know if your wife has forgiven you. How does he know that God specifically forgave him for this particular incident of going out with a prostitute?
MS. HUFFINGTON: And he also said that his enemies are using stuff to make up stuff. Again, we have the kind of specter of the vast left-wing conspiracy. But I talked to Larry Flynt on Wednesday, and according to Larry Flynt, there is more coming.
So that will determine --
MR. PODHORETZ: If Larry Flynt said it, then it must be true.
MS. HUFFINGTON: It was Larry Flynt who got this out, John, so --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is Flynt's motive? He goes after conservatives?
MR. PODHORETZ: Yes.
MS. HUFFINGTON: Well, he claims that he's going after everybody who's a hypocrite. You see, the problem about Vitter is not that he's a conservative. It's that he made a kind of -- marriage, the institution of marriage, a central part of his public leadership.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what does Flynt say he has on him?
MS. HUFFINGTON: Other women.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Other women.
MR. BLANKLEY: Only women? Well, that's not much of a problem in Louisiana.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Ferocious media.
The media coverage of Senator David Vitter and his family and the ferocity of that coverage was painful for the principals.
WENDY VITTER (wife of Senator Vitter): (From videotape.) And now I'm going to speak to you as a mother, and I hope you will understand. It's been terribly hard to have the media parked on our front lawn and following us every day. And yesterday the media was camped at our church -- at our home and at our church every day. I would just ask you very respectfully to let us continue our summer and our lives as we had planned.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does a celebrity or a politician have a right to demand privacy from the media in circumstances such as these? John Podhoretz. MR. PODHORETZ: A celebrity? Maybe. A politician? No. I mean, a politician -- he is an elected politician. There is a possible crime here. If he didn't want to be exposed to ridicule for a relationship with an escort service, he shouldn't have called the escort service in the first place. I feel bad for Mrs. Vitter and his children, but he chose a public life and he has to deal with the consequences of living a public life.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the celebrity has chosen a public life too, and the celebrity feeds on publicity. When the days are good, fine. But what about when it's rainy? Should the press withhold information?
MR. PODHORETZ: No. I mean, again, this is a public policy issue involving an actual escort service that may be an illegal prostitution ring.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm extending this to celebrities. Don't misunderstand my point. It's the same point that you're making fundamentally.
MR. PODHORETZ: I think that there is a deep issue here. We talk a lot about privacy. But since people in the public eye are role models for other people, maybe they should think a little bit about the way they behave in private and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think about that little sermon we're getting here now?
MS. HUFFINGTON: Here's the thing. Vitter opposed same-sex marriage. He only supported abstinence because he claimed that the only way to really live is to be faithful in your marriage and to not have sex before marriage. These were his public policy positions. This is not just any politician or any celebrity.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you're saying he's a hypocrite.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MS. HUFFINGTON: Of course he's a hypocrite. And that's why the media have a right to expose him. I don't believe that we should go after people's private lives unless --
MR. BLANKLEY: So do you think --
MS. HUFFINGTON: -- unless your policy position contradicts your private behavior.
MR. PODHORETZ: I don't think hypocrisy is the issue. The issue is that he is a publicly elected official involved in something that may well be a crime, and he surrenders -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is that? There has to be solicitation. There's no sign of solicitation here at all.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, what about the hypocrisy of someone like Senator Kennedy talking about the rights of women when he's notoriously an exploiter of women at restaurants around town?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question -- quick exit question: Is it your intuition --
MS. CLIFT: I think we judge him by his public policy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that this is the last we will hear about Senator Vitter's subterranean life, if that's what it is? Or is there more to come, another shoe to drop?
MR. PODHORETZ: Maybe one shoe.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: I think there's more to come.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know. I bow to Arianna's connections with her reliable source. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He yields to you, and you stick by what you said.
MS. HUFFINGTON: I stick by a few more shoes to drop, but I also stick by my last week's prediction that Vitter will survive.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think you're right on both again.
MR. PODHORETZ: The New Republic, a magazine that had to apologize when it falsified articles 10 years ago, is going to have to again with a diarist that made up details about atrocities in Iraq.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Democrat Mary Landrieu's re-election campaign in Louisiana just got a big boost because David Vitter will not be the number one surrogate campaigning against her.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: Senator Obama's statement that kindergartners should be given sex education is the first serious mistake of his campaign, and Republicans are quickly going to move in to take advantage of it. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Arianna.
MS. HUFFINGTON: Senator John Sununu will be the next Republican to break with the president on Iraq. He's already said he won't campaign with him.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the U.S., crime will be a big issue in the '08 presidential campaign and election.
Issue Three: Kinky Inky?
Tattooing is the rage. Some call it creative and spiritual. Others call it self-mutilating and repulsive. David Beckham and Angelina Jolie love it. They have large ink patches all over their body. In fact, a quarter of Americans between the ages of 18 and 50 have tattoos -- one out of four.
But there are problems, especially employment, and Russell Parrish says it happened to him. Parrish is a Floridian who has been turned down for dozens of jobs. The reason: His tattoos. At least that's what he says. If it is his tattoos, can employers legally do that? Discrimination based on appearance is unlawful. So says the U.S. Department of Labor, although no specific law protects inked individuals.
Do you think there should be EEOC regulation -- Employment Equal Opportunity regulation -- at the federal level dealing with tattoos?
MR. PODHORETZ: If it ever happens, I'm moving to New Zealand -- (laughter) -- because I don't want to have to buy a burger at a roadside stand from somebody who has a steak on his hand, thank you very much.
MS. CLIFT: Tattoos used to be associated with criminality. And, in fact, five years ago, Congresswoman Lois Capps got money from the federal government to pay for gang members to have their tattoos removed so they could get gainful employment.
But you're right. Tattooing has suddenly taken off. And the Marines have put out a policy advisory that you shouldn't have tattoos that could be seen if you're wearing shorts. So they've drawn the line.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question for you. Suppose somebody walks in and wants a job and he's got Charlie Manson over here and he's got -- what's that term that they -- "Helter Skelter"?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I think that would be a disqualifying mark. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You would?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you think it's okay to disqualify on that basis?
MR. BLANKLEY: I would think so.